Despite the extremely unseasonable, boiling hot temperatures outside here in Israel (it hit 31°C today) (even though winter doesn’t usually set in till after Channukah), and even though it is still only November, Channukah (or Hannukah or Hanukah or Chanuka or whichever other combination you can come up with) has arrived once again, beginning this evening and lasting for 8 days.
Once again, I’ll repost my Channukah post from previous years:
A short history of Channukah, from Aish.com:
The Hebrew word Chanukah means “dedication.” In the 2nd century BCE, during the time of the Second Holy Temple, the Syrian-Greek regime of Antiochus sought to pull Jews away from Judaism, with the hopes of assimilating them into Greek culture. Antiochus outlawed Jewish observance ― including circumcision, Shabbat, and Torah study ― under penalty of death. As well, many Jews ― called Hellenists ― began to assimilate into Greek culture, taking on Greek names and marrying non-Jews. This began to decay the foundation of Jewish life and practice.
When the Greeks challenged the Jews to sacrifice a pig to a Greek god, a few courageous Jews took to the hills of Judea in open revolt against this threat to Jewish life. Led by Matitiyahu, and later his son Judah the Maccabee, this small band of pious Jews led guerrilla warfare against the Syrian-Greek army.
Antiochus sent thousands of well-armed troops to crush the rebellion, but after three years the Maccabees beat incredible odds and miraculously succeeded in driving the foreigners from their land. The victory was on the scale of Israel defeating the combined super-powers of today.
Jewish fighters entered Jerusalem and found the Holy Temple in shambles and desecrated with idols. The Maccabees cleansed the Temple and re-dedicated it on the 25th of Kislev. When it came time to re-light the Menorah, they searched the entire Temple, but found only one jar of pure oil bearing the seal of the High Priest. The group of believers lit the Menorah anyway and were rewarded with a miracle: That small jar of oil burned for eight days, until a new supply of oil could be brought.
From then on, Jews have observed a holiday for eight days, in honor of this historic victory and the miracle of the oil. To publicize the Chanukah miracle, Jews add the special Hallel praises to the Shacharit service, and light a menorah during the eight nights of Chanukah.
There are several customs associated with Channukah, chief amongst them eating foods made with or fried in oil (to commemorate the miracle of the jar of oil), especially latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jam-filled doughnuts – or jelly donuts for the Americans amongst us) and playing with the dreidel, a little spinning top. According to tradition, under Greek rule it was forbidden to study Torah, so students would gather in secret. If they were discovered by the Greeks they would pull out dreidels and pretend to be gambling or playing games.
This year, 5774 according to the Jewish (lunar) calendar, Channukah coincides with the American Thanksgiving holiday. This is a confluence that hasn’t happened for over 100 years and won’t happen again for thousands of years to come. From the link:
The Jewish month of Kislev can currently start as early as November 3 or as late as December 2, which means that the first day of Hanukkah can come as early as November 28 or as late as December 27.
The reason for the broad range of possible dates is that the Jewish calendar is lunar-solar. The months are based on the cycles of the moon. But the calendar changes the lengths of those months, and even how many months are in a year, to make sure that Passover always falls in the spring. This complex system — put in place by Rav Shmuel in the first half of the first millennium CE — ensures that the Jewish date and the secular date match up every 19 years. (By contrast, the Muslim calendar is purely lunar, which is why Ramadan can fall during any time of the solar year. The Christian religious calendar is almost entirely solar, but Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox [around March 21], a calculation that involves the moon as well as the sun.)
Because of this Jewish 19-year cycle, 19 years from now, in the year 2032, Hanukkah will again fall on November 28. But Thanksgiving in that year falls three days earlier, on the 25th.
On average, we would expect the 19-year Jewish cycle and the 7-year Thanksgiving-on-November-28 cycle to coincide about every 19×7 years, which is to say, approximately every 133 years. And they sort of do.
One-hundred and fifty-two years ago, in 1861, the first day of Hanukkah and the 4th Thursday in November were both on November 28th. But there was no Thanksgiving back then.
The Shmuelian calendar and the Gregorian calendar have been diverging at the rate of about 11 minutes a year, or 3 days every 400 years.
This is why (remember the question from several paragraphs ago?) in the year 2165, when we’d expect Thanksgiving and Hanukkah to coincide again, Hanukkah will actually be one day later.
And that is why Thanksgiving and Hanukkah will never again coincide.
Well, almost never.
Read the rest of the fascinating calculations and historical explanations.
So in celebration of the joint festivities, nicknamed “Thanksgivukah” by some bright sparks, I bring you a wonderful, bouncy, catchy music video by Ari Lesser, the Orthodox Jewish reggae star who made a name for himself with his anti-BDS “boycott Israel” video:
May we continue to have much to be grateful for, and may we not forget to Whom we owe our thanks.
Happy Channukah everyone!
חג אורים שמח!